I wait for gentle, falling snow with large, lacy flakes landing ever so briefly on my eyelashes. Yes, just enough pristine snow blanketing the landscape with tree limbs outlined, curves of old stone walls disclosed, and aging telephone wires highlighted to reveal those things usually unseen. The woodpecker above and the bluebird in the email you just opened were feathered beauties presented to me after an extravagant blizzard several years ago. Instead of my winter wonderland dream, a nor’easter railroaded through overnight, depositing three feet of snow. Sadly, there were no birds to photograph following this storm’s fierce, gusty winds making ‘Woody’ and ‘Rufus’ even more exceptional.
So, I wait. I look towards the shortest day with its dark, deep mysteries rooted in rich, pungent earth under a hardened crust of land. Since prehistory, the Winter Solstice remains a significant time of year in many cultures marked by festivals and rituals heralding a symbolic death and rebirth of Mother Earth and the Sun.
Winter Solstice arrives this Monday, December 21, the shortest day of our year. Together with kindred spirits, I will celebrate virtually with ritual: Singing, dancing, lighting blessing candles, giving gifts, eating luscious foods, and more! These observances are rooted in unfeigned gratitude to Mother Earth: Her changing seasons, the uninhibited, inherent mysteries and magic that reside in her natural world, and all she provides to sustain life—all life. If these festivities feel a bit like Christmas activities, you are correct. They stem from Winter Solstice celebrations dating from Neolithic times to the Norse traditions (Santa Claus et al.) onward.
Through the millennia, Wisdom Keepers, Shaman, Healers, both women, and men, have not viewed this ‘darkness of time’ with disdain nor grumble for the lack of long, sunny days. They greet this season, knowing that natural life rests, contracts, and restores so that Nature rebirths into its fullness in the next season.
Paints, brushes, and knitting are now collected for personal projects. Books, stacked on my bedside table, wait patiently for me to read. Various music from folk to opera, together with audiobooks for ‘listening times,’ is ready for the choosing. And I am writing my new book! Like Nature, I have begun the process of gathering myself in for the fertile dark time where everything must rest for renewal.
I’ve created a Winter Solstice altar for part of my festivities. Several of the altar items are presented in the Gallery images. A Spirit Wheel (both dream catcher and medicine wheel) handmade by a Navajo artist unveils its aura, confirming that there is life even in the inanimate. Frost clinging to twigs sit in a glazed clay vase. One candle burns swirling beauty and chaos within its faceted holder. Two stained glass candle globes glow with a light that warms the soul, and a clear selenite crystal discloses a hidden universe! Three ceramic cups hold herbs and rose petals, ready to brew for tea. Three blessing candles radiate another life lived when lanterns and candles shone soft light while hearths were ablaze with fire. An abstract painting and a photograph are interspersed among the altar images. Both relate to the earth and its inner core. There are more crystals, incense, palo santo sticks, sage, and other cherished mementos on the altar, but those are not ready for me to share—perhaps, perhaps in another time in another season.
Please, enjoy the gallery images from a soupçon of my Winter Solstice altar~
It is not my intention to ignore the sadness in our world. I fight hard to hold on to inner peace while acknowledging the pain and sorrow that surrounds us. Consider lighting a candle or build a fire if you are able this Monday. Throw sage into the fire, or smudge with palo santo and sweetgrass to honor the heroes and those people lost to us as well as our Mother Earth’s wounds. Say a prayer, write a poem! Keep a journal, or simply say thank you—all the time.
I wish each of you a healthy, safe, and joyful holiday season, whatever your faith, culture, or personal spiritual preferences. I always look up and reach for the stars. But, also, walk with confidence into the darkness, knowing that our beautiful Mother Earth prepares where it is deep, moist, and fertile to give birth again.
In Memorium For all those no longer with us, may their memory be a blessing.
“When he shall die, Take him and cut him out in little stars, And he will make the face of heaven so fine That all the world will be in love with night …" -William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet